Latkes and Lights: A Storytime for Hanukkah

Hanukkah Flame Hat

Hanukkah Flame Hat

This week’s Family Storytime featured guest reader, Esther Goldman from Chabad of Daly City, a local Jewish organization which offers classes in Daly City and Pacifica.  She did a wonderful job of explaining Chanukah traditions in a way that the kids could relate to, and connecting them to modern life.  Here are the books she read:


This is the Dreidel by Abby Levine; illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye ( link)

This simple rhyming story describes all the ways Max and his little sister Ruth prepare for Hanukkah: selecting the candles for the menorah, singing songs, eating latkes, etc.  Esther took time to explain the pushke, a box for collecting money for charity, and asked the kids to suggest other ways they might help people in need.


Hoppy Hanukkah by Linda Glaser; illustrated by Daniel Howarth ( link)

Cute story about a family of bunnies that captures the excitement of waiting until sunset to light the first candle on their menorah.  Esther explained that the purpose of lighting one more candle each night, rather than lighting them all at once, is to symbolize the idea that each day can be a little brighter than the one before, or that people can always do even more to make the world a better place.  I think this was the book the kids enjoyed the most.


Celebrate Hanukkah: With Lights, Latkes, and Dreidels by Deborah Heiligman ( link)

Part of the National Geographic, Holidays Around the World series, this book features photographs of people celebrating Hanukkah in different parts of the world: Uganda, Peru, Israel, etc.  The text is fairly lengthy, so Esther mostly just showed the pictures and described them to the kids, who had a lot of questions and observations.  They especially liked the photo of the giant menorahs displayed in different countries, and the children wearing flame hats that made them look like candles (this was a perfect lead-in to our craft).


I Have a Little Dreidel by Maxie Baum; illustrated by Julie Paschkis ( link)

I always end the storytime by handing out shakers and rhythm instruments, so the kids can play along to a song.  This time, Esther held up this book, and I played the song on the ukulele (easy to chord with just C and G7) an easy, encouraging the kids to sing along on the chorus.  Maxie Baum adds additional verses to the traditional version of the song, describing other parts of the Hanukkah tradition.  Several of the kids were still singing the song while they worked on their craft at the end.

CRAFT: Flame Hats

Hanukkah Flame Hat by Lily

Hanukkah Flame Hat by Lily

Esther had suggested this craft.  I based ours on this one from Pinterest.  I cut out strips of blue paper for the headbands, which we helped the kids assemble with staples.  I cut the flames out of yellow paper, with a little flame in orange to go in the middle.  We also gave the kids dot paint, glitter glue, and glitter to decorate.  They had a great time, although of course the library was glittery afterwards.

What are your favorite books about Hanukkah?

Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah! (Or Chanukah)

This week we had a special guest for storytime: Esther Goldman from Chabad, a Jewish outreach organization in Daly City.  She brought some of her favorite books to share for Chanukah, and we alternated reading them.

In the past, most of the Hanukkah books we had at the library seemed to be either too long, or too dry to hold the interest of the kids at my storytimes.  Happily now there are a lot of fun stories for different age groups, but I was still really grateful to have Esther’s recommendations. These were the ones she chose to share:


A Chanukah Story for Night Number Three by Dina Rosenfeld; illustrated by Vitaliy Romanenko (Amazon link)

A little boy whose birthday falls on the third night of Chanukah hopes to celebrate by making the biggest latke ever.  Funny, rhyming story that the kids enjoyed.  Esther brought her own copy of this book, which had a slightly different title, so there may be alternative versions.


I Have a Little Dreidel by Maxie Baum; illustrated by Julie Paschkis (Amazon link)

An extended version of the traditional song describing a family Hanukkah celebration, with nice, large illustrations.  I had the kids join in on the chorus, and I heard them singing it after the storytime too.  Esther kindly brought little plastic dreidels to hand out to each child at the end.


The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes by Linda Glaser; illustrated by Nancy Cote (Amazon link)

A little girl hopes to persuade her neighbor, Mrs. Greenberg, to join them for a Hanukkah dinner by borrowing different things to make latkes.  Sweet, happy story that made everyone hungry for latkes.


Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah! by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov (Amazon link)

Lovely, illustrated version of the traditional song.  Several kids wanted to check this one out.  Perfect for any age group.

INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH A CD: Su-sufganiya by Yaffa Yarkoni from The Feast of Chanukah album (Amazon link)

This is a great CD with music in English and Hebrew.   One of the moms said it was the best one she had found.

CRAFT: Craft Stick Menorah

Paper and Foam Craft Stick Menorah from Jonas

Paper and Foam Craft Stick Menorah from Jonas

Initially Esther had wanted to make flame hats, which would have been fun, but we didn’t end up having enough time to coordinate, so I threw this craft together.  I had picked up some colored craft sticks from Michaels, assuming they were the usual wooden ones.  To my surprise, they were actually foam.  They were super stinky when I first opened them, but they worked out great for the candles on the menorah because I could cut them in half.

For the base of the menorah, I just cut out strips of blue paper in three different sizes.  The kids glued them onto white card stock with glue sticks, then glued on the craft stick candles.  They made the flames with yellow dot paint, then decorated with stickers.

But OOPS!  I just realized I never accounted for the Shamash candle in my craft, which was a huge oversight!!  Wow!  I apologize for that.  I should have had a longer foam stick for each child.  Here’s my daughter’s menorah with the Shamash candle in the middle.

photo (60)

There are some other really nice menorah crafts online.  If I had more time, I would have loved to have done this handprint menorah from All Kids Network.


The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story by Lemony Snicket (Amazon link)

This is still my personal favorite Hanukkah book.  Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) does a brilliant job of incorporating the history of Hanukkah into the story of a disgruntled latke who is sick of Christmas decorations who assume he’s part of their holiday.  Plus the kids get to scream on every other page.  There’s a funny twist at the end, and, unlike all the turkey stories we read last week, the protagonist of this book does get eaten.  I’m looking forward to reading this to some second grade classes after Thanksgiving.

The Chanukkah Guest by Eric Kimmel; illustrated by Giora Carmi (Recommended by Sapphira Edgarde) Amazon link

Bubba Brayna is an old woman whose hearing and eyesight are failing, but she still makes the best latkes.  When a hairy visitor shows up at her door, she assumes it’s the rabbi.  Bubba Brayna entertains him, feeds him, and sends him on his way with a new red scarf, never realizing that her guest is actually an enormous hungry bear.  This is a funny story that I plan to share with the second graders too.  Thanks to Sapphira for the recommendations and for pointing out that the book has recently been republished with new illustrations by Mike Wohnoutka under the title, The Hanukkah Bear (Amazon link).

Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah by Sylvia A Rouss; illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn (Amazon link)

This is part of a series of books where Sammy Spider learns about different Jewish holidays.  In this one, Sammy envies Josh Shapiro, a little boy whose family gives him a different colored dreidel for every night of Hanukkah.  He longs for a dreidel of his own, but his mom tells him spiders spin webs not dreidels.  This is one of the shorter Hanukkah stories, and it also doubles as a book about colors and numbers.  San Mateo County Library patrons can read and listen to an animated ebook version of Sammy Spider’s First Shabbat on  Tumblebooks through the library web site (you have to search for the title.  There’s a wonderful assortment of books there, including many by Robert Munsch, who does his own narration).

What Do You See? on Hanukkah by Bracha Goetz

Esther had brought this one for babies and toddlers, but didn’t end up reading it.  It’s a board book with colorful photographs to introduce very young children to the holiday.  Unfortunately we don’t have a copy in our library system, so the link above goes to the Amazon page.

I’d love to get more recommendations.  Please send me your favorite Hanukkah book titles and I’ll add them to my list.